Photo of several Marvel comics

Does your customer panel harness your customers’ superpowers?

My wife has recently had a knee replacement and was delighted with the whole experience (as delighted as you can be with major surgery anyway) at the hospital where she had had it done. However, she reluctantly had to submit a complaint after an error with her discharge notes which were highly inaccurate. The response from the hospital’s quality head was admirably quick and clear. Acknowledging the error and committing to learn from the mistake, she was also asked if she would like to join their customer panel. A veteran of maternity services panels at another hospital she jumped at the chance (not literally, obviously).

The following day I boarded a London North Western train at Euston. Opening up my laptop and logging on the on-board Wi-Fi I was asked if I wanted to join their customer panel. I demurred, but since I was on my way to a customer committee presentation to the board of a housing association, such organisations were very much on my mind. And, falling into the consultant’s trap of drawing a line between two data points and calling it a trend, it could be that customer panels, forums or whatever are increasingly being used as organisations recognise the need to become more customer-centric.

Whether you call it a committee, panel, forum or fan club, having a group of customers to provide you with feedback and guidance is an essential part of customer-centricity. But it takes investment to do it properly and so, to avoid wasting time and money, it’s worth paying attention to the following success factors.

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an image of a cat with a grumpy face

Do you want nice with that?

Being obsessed with customer experience is a tough gig sometimes – every instance of poor service, inept processes and lousy systems can leave me having a less than happy day – but I recognise that I choose to be so obsessed. People in service industries, very often at the lower end of the income scale, probably have a lot more to be stressed and unhappy about right now. So maybe this is why surliness is on the rise. Or at least it would appear to be based on an entirely unscientific sample of recent interactions.

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Sign above The Ritz arcade in London

Puttin’ on the Ritz – for everyone

The newsreader Justin Webb told an amusing story on BBC Radio 4 recently (starts 5 minutes in). He had apparently been brought up by his mother to believe that if you were to ask for anything in The Ritz in a suitably polite manner then – whether you were a guest or not – they would do it for you. One evening he was on his way to a corporate function, suitably smartly dressed, when he realised his top shirt button had come off. Not wishing to arrive looking unkempt he realised he was near the hotel and so went in and asked if it would be possible to replace the missing button. The hotel staff duly obliged and he was ushered into a side room where the shirt was swiftly restored to its former neatness.

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a nurse with a syringe

This is(n’t) going to hurt

Another day, another trip to my doctor for a blood test… yep, getting old requires taking my aging body in for maintenance with what seems like increasing frequency. But my day was brightened by an excellent interaction with the practice nurse extracting another armful. Here’s what made it great:

  1. A cheerful greeting.
  2. She acknowledged that this was the second test in a few days.
  3. We had a conversation about singing with choirs and performing on stage – two of my favourite topics.

Let’s unpack this because although the whole thing took less than 5 minutes and seems quite inconsequential, it carries important messages about great customer experience.

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a man waiting and looking at his wristwatch

How much is customer wait time worth?

As a long-term fan of the band Talking Heads I’ve always found their lyrics intriguing and none more so than the line from the song Heaven which states that “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens”. Taken out of context I am not totally sure I agree with the statement (and taken in context I am not sure I quite get it…) but the feeling you get when you expect something to happen and it doesn’t is definitely not heavenly.

Such was the feeling I had a few weeks ago when on the last working day before I was due to attend court for two weeks’ jury service I received a text telling me I was not required to turn up. A subsequent email put me “on hold” with the possibility that I might be discharged from service if not needed.

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Five ways to get value from customer complaints

Unpacking the way in which my complaint to the AA was handled shows how a more customer-centric approach would have helped.

My recent experience with the AA resulted in a complaint which resulted in me leaving the AA, only to return as part of a much better deal with my car insurance provider. My original experience was bad but the complaints handling was not great either. However, as with all bad experiences, there is much that we can learn – in this case how to handle complaints so that they add value to the organisation and the customer.

My experience and observation of the complaint leads me to highlight five do’s and don’ts that, if followed, will turn your complaints department into a source of value for your organisation.

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hand holding a car door handle

You keep me hanging on: how the AA failed in the basics of customer service

A central London breakdown becomes an epic journey

It’s been a while since I’ve written about customer experience since there’s not a lot you can say about home delivery shopping and other pandemic-related services other than it’s been, well, OK. So it’s taken an almost entirely dreadful experience with AA’s breakdown service to get my customer experience mojo working again. Needs must, so here we go…

Thursday evening and my wife is on her way to a choir rehearsal on the other side of town. At 6.30pm and without warning the car engine cuts out in central London. Luckily she’s able to park up in a Holborn side street opposite a branch of Nando’s. Things could have been worse but then she calls the AA…

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The subtle simplicity of great customer experience

Leaders need to let people bring their “best selves” to work

If anyone’s noticed the gap in my writing on the website they’ve been kind enough not to mention it to me – or a more likely explanation is that its low traffic (if it were a country village it would be a loner’s delight) means that no-one has noticed anyway.

I’ll put it down to the pandemic effect – not that I or anyone close to me has caught COVID-19 – but just that in the way in which priorities have shifted means that some priorities drop and then have difficulty getting back to their former status. Moreover, writing about my own customer experiences has been as limited as my shopping trips to the local stores: sources of god, bad or indifferent CX have been in short supply.

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